Tips to manage and minimize data usage

Every device connected to your home network, wired and wireless, uses data. Learn more about how your devices use data and how you can control their data usage.

Internet equipment and data usage

Equipment tips for data management

The following tips can help you control the amount of data your devices use.
  • Learn how new devices, programs, or apps will access and use the Internet
  • Identify options to manage usage
  • Adjust settings appropriately
  • Exit and close programs not in use
  • Turn off unused devices
  • Keep anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall software installed and up-to-date
  • Install parental controls to minimize unknown usage

Device and app data usage

Personal computers
Any activity on a personal computer using a web browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.) contributes to your Internet data usage. Sometimes, it happens and you don’t even know it. Ads on some sites include audio and video that increase data consumption. Some websites automatically play audio or video clips when you visit. Even downloading documents and files consumes data.

Audio and video streaming
Streaming, downloading, and watching videos (YouTube, NetFlix, etc.) and downloading or streaming music (Pandora, iTunes, Spotify, etc.) dramatically increases data usage. Video is the biggest culprit. You can lessen the data used when streaming and downloading videos by selecting standard definition (SD) versus high definition (HD) play back. HD might look great on your 65” LED HDTV, but if you are watching on a smaller monitor, it won’t make as much of a difference.

Email contributes to overall data usage, but basic messages will have minimal impact. Emails with large attachments such as photos or videos will have a much greater impact. Graphics affect data usage much more than text.

Game consoles and gaming
Games on personal computers have various impacts on data usage. Some games operate mainly on the computer with little Internet use except downloading updates. Other games involve elaborate video or audio, or both, from the Internet, and these consume larger amounts of data.

If you have a game console, be sure to review each game’s controls and use them as needed to control data use. Some game consoles include web browsers. If yours does, be sure to close the browser and end any active sessions when you aren’t using it. Your console may also support streaming video services allowing you to watch TV shows, movies, and videos. To manage data usage, gear the quality setting of the playback to match the content. For example, when you watching cartoon or view content on smaller screens, choose SD playback instead of HD.

Video chat
Video chat services such as Skype, FaceTime, and others let users see each other when communicating. Video captured from one device is transmitted to the other device through the Internet. To lessen data usage, limit the size and resolution of the video.

Tablets and smartphones using home Wi-Fi
Tablets and smartphones may use Wi-Fi instead of cellular data service when you use them at home. When connected to your home Wi-Fi network, these devices use the Internet in ways similar to personal computers, including:
  • Operating system updates 
  • Downloading and updating programs and apps Surfing the Internet
  • Watching video and listening to music
  • Playing games
  • Reading email
  • Using social media
  • Sharing photos, videos, and files
  • Synching calendars, email, and address books with other devices 

As with personal computers, you can control usage by adjusting settings and making other changes. For example, limit program, app, and operating system updates to critical and security updates. Turn off or disable live updates for tiles and limit the frequency of live updates for social media and other apps. Limit synch activities so only necessary information is exchanged as frequently as absolutely necessary.

Other devices
Other residential devices that use the Internet may not be instantly obvious. Devices such as TVs, media players, security systems, and other smart devices fall into this category. Many TVs include Ethernet or Wi-Fi connections to enable you to watch video or play audio. Some even let you play games on the Internet.

Additional Internet data usage tools and information

Use the Internet data calculator to estimate how much data you use or need.

Learn how to check your past and current Internet data usage.

Review AT&T's Home Internet Data usage.
Last updated: February 27, 2023

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